For those of us who suspected that Erich von Daniken had been silently abducted by aliens at some point in the last couple of decades (but without bothering to look up his Wikipedia entry to find out that this was [probably] not true), a new von Daniken book may come as a bit of a surprise.

Released in German in September 2007, “Falsch Informiert!” promises the reader a thoughtful reappraisal (and a combative intellectual defence against countless assaults) of von Daniken’s claims from all those years ago, such as Father Crespi’s “Metal Library” and the Nasca lines and… oh, you get the general idea. (Personally, I’d be more interested to read Stan Hall’s (2007) book “Tayos Gold: The Archives of Atlantis“, but there you go.)

As ever, von Daniken’s roving eye remains alert for anomalous objects that might just have been placed into an inappropriate historical stratum by careless alien visitors: the Piri Reis map (debunking courtesy of the ever-reliable Map Room blog), the splendid Antikythera Mechanism, and so forth. Both of which seem perfectly sane artefacts to me, with no huge (or even small) need to introduce extraterrestrial visitations to explain their basic existence.

But wait: in “Falsch Informiert!”, von Daniken has also picked up on the Voynich Manuscript as an object apparently inserted out of the correct historical sequence. Now, while I don’t believe that the VMs requires a deus ex machina (a chariot-driving deus, in Daniken’s case) to explain its very-probably-Quattrocento art history, I do think it will be interesting to see what our Swiss chum has to say about it.

As you’d expect, his account may well turn out to be nonsense: but even so, it will very likely be well-argued and well-read nonsense. Which, compared to a lot of the Voynich babble out there, should at least be a bit of fun to read. Just remember not to inhale. 🙂

Another day, another claimed Voynich decryption, this time by an archaeologist called Adolfo Stromboli. Though retired from active digging duty, he now claims to spend his time in his climate controlled house in West Virginia solving the Voynich Manuscript.

Stromboli has put a nice little puzzle on the right of his page for fans of pigpen ciphers, marred only by the fact that he misspelt the first word in the plaintext (the penultimate letter is the wrong vowel)… oh well.

Ominously, some Javascript windows pop up at the start, claiming to scan your identity or something similar…

But have no fear, it’s all just a piece of harmless fun, almost certainly concocted by a Worcester Polytechnic Institute student at the WPI Mystery Club. Though the WPI’s claim to fame for Worcester is (according to Wikipedia) wrong: it is probably the second (not third) largest city in New England (after Boston). My two personal favourite Worcester factettes: (1) its original Pakachoag name was ‘Quinsigamond’ (why ever did they want to change that?), and (2) the town was home to modern hero Harvey Ball, the 1963 inventor of the smiley face. 🙂

Proof that the VMs meme has entered a whole new era comes from a quite unexpected source: a 2007 thread about the VMs’ positive energy in an online forum for Shirley Maclaine’s online community.

I suspect that, not so long ago, the VMs would not have been described by the same crowd as at all “beautiful”. This is basically what I mean when I say that the VMs is becoming more “mainstream”: it’s not that it is changing, but rather that as people’s tastes are evolving, so the whole Voynichian vibe is becoming more accessible. As always, make of it what you will…

Once upon a time (as most Voynich research stories begin) around 2003, there was a brief fad amongst VMs mailing list members for constructing Markov (state-based) models for Voynichese. My own (in retrospect not so good) contribution looked like this: incidentally, this is hosted as part of a “non-systematic miscellany of Voynich-related documents, scans, diagrams and imageshere on my personal pages.

I’m currently thinking about revisiting this whole Markov model thing, but using tokenised adjacency tables to help construct it. That is, first tokenise the selected text (Currier A pages, Currier B pages, labels, etc) according to a set of predetermined frequent (possibly verbose cipher) pairs (such as ol, or, al, ar, am, aiiii, aiii, aii, ai, qo, etc), then build up a large “adjacency table” (i.e. counting the occurrence of adjacent tokens in a 2d grid, first token indexed up the left, second token across the top).

It might be said that the whole point of constructing Markov models is to work out what the tokens are. To which I would reply that trying to work out both word structure and token structure within the same model has to date proved unhelpful. In fact, I think the overloaded way that “a” and “o” are used within Voynichese (for example, the “o” in “qo” is unlikely to be the same kind of “o” in “ol”) may well be a sign that these were deliberately designed to confuse decipherers as to the structure of the tokens, in a tricky Quattrocento Sforza cipher sort of way.

Or, in terms of signal processing, I’d say that the verbose cipher convolves the text signal, blurring away most of the sharp boundaries in the underlying plaintext you’re hoping to model.

The new twist I have on all this is to exclude a lot of noise when collecting the adjacency stats, in particular the first tokens of each line. This thought came from a recent email exchange with Marke Fincher, who reminded me that the first letter of each line is often unreliable, and in particular…

Check out lines which include the EVA-strings “YSHEO” and “YCHEO”.
These strings are almost always line-initial, and probably because the Y is in fact data from a vertical column of symbols.
Ditto for “dche” I think.

(By the way, I think “eo” occurs twice as often in A pages than B pages.)

Thinking about line-initial letters, if you take a random page from the VMs (say, f77r) and look at the first column of tokens (I used Takeshi Takahashi’s VMs transcription for the following), you’ll see that its elements typically come from a very limited group: the “s qo s qo s qo” sequence near the start could be deliberate padding, rather than just coincidence or a coded reference to an early line-up of Catford’s finest band “Status Quo” (as I suspect Francis Rossi was born post-Renaissance):-

p t qo s qo s qo s qo d qo qo che qo sheo d ot qo s ol s qo qo q d qo s d t p ol d d qo d shee qo d y s

Yet if you look at the form of the “s” characters when written as the first character of the line (which occurs more in B pages than in A pages, I think) as appear on the page, you can see various subtle scribal forms of it appearing: “round head s”, “flat head s”, “short s”, “long s”, etc. Might these be a kind of steganographic anti-transcription cipher? It’s certainly a thought..

One of the better APOD posts I mentioned recently discussed the similarities between f67r1 and pages 10v and 19v of a 10th-11th century antiphonal, which can be seen in “Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Spain” by Mireille Mentré. This is held in León Cathedral library as its MS 8: I found a good quality image of 10v on a 2006 post on the Dragon’s Scriptorium blog by someone called Emma. León MS 8 is pretty (in fact, very pretty): but I’d need to see the rest of the manuscript to work out how good a match it is to the VMs.
There is also a nice picture of the circular design at Arcos de la Frontera on the Associacion Torrestrella blog, which dates it as no later than the fifteenth century. But I’d have to say it’s not an obvious match for f67r1.
Moving from Spain to Italy, and there are also plenty of geometric circular designs in Italian churches: a nice one from the floor of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is at the bottom of this page from quilt artist Linda M. Poole.

But there is one of these which I can’t find anywhere, which I think I caught a glimpse of in “Francesco’s Venice” on TV: it was in the floor of the entrance of the Marciana in Venice (and so would have been made by Jacopo Sansovino). As I recall, this was almost exactly the same shape as the circular drawing in f67r1 (though without the face in the middle). But I have been unable to find a copy of it… drat! 🙁 [please email me if you find one!]

Browsing idly through the few Google search results for Voynich above Voynich News a few days ago, I wondered how voynich dot org, a parked domain with no content and no inward links could rank so highly out of 225,000 hits. Now that is a mystery: whatever SEO ayahuasca they’re using, I want some.

Following that micro-enigma, the next two search hits along (dated 2002 and 2005) are for APOD, the “Astronomy Photo of the Day” from our dear friends at NASA, faux Star Wars space mission specialists and erstwhile inventors of the Techno-Trousers. Why does Google mysteriously rate these two tiny pages (both featuring the same cropped picture of f67r1) so highly?

Well… it seems that the author of the 2002 APOD entry received so many emails related to it that he re-posted it again in 2005, with a request that interested parties should not post their, ummm, fascinating thoughts to him (tellingly, the email address has been replaced by “please.do.not@send.us.email.about.this) but instead post them to The Asterisk* online forum. And so they did, again and again, with about 280 posts in the main thread within a week, plus various auxiliary threads (such as this one) since.

I thought I’d trawl through them to see if there’s anything of any interest there. Despite lots of posts debating Gordon Rugg’s “Ruggish” hoax hypothesis in a fairly vacuous way, here is what I found (though heavily edited, or I’d still be typing in a week’s time).

(1) Adrian Nedelkovic from Beograd (Belgrade) in Serbia, mentioned his hypothesis that had been published on p.42 of the 28th October 2004 edition of “Planeta”, a Serbian popular science magazine. In a dusty corner of the Wayback Machine are copies of his first two pages (part 1 and part 2, though the images have long vanished into the ether), where he proposes that one particular fragment of Voynichese should be transcribed (you’ll see in a moment why I’ve put certain parts in bold) as:-
Nedelkovic believes that this “is about applying a medicine in a right and wrong way, with a warning in the end about the wrong appliance or a lost recipe”, and translates it as (with “?” for missing words):

Tu kur uluruda ula kur deiiv fulkaiko fuias kus cius deiiv D kur fueiiv
kileiiv kllur kus kur clus da uila fuileiiv da
Ailca kur a ileiv deiiv cilla u leiiv uila ulccl deiiv
Allcallk a leiiv ulcur ulus ula lusda

 

To cure your ? cure ? ? fools ? close ? ? ? ?
The cure (for you) cause cure close the ? ? the
? cure a life ? ? you live ? ? ?
All call a life you’ll cure, you loose you’re lost

Which would seem to add an as-yet-unknown type of deciphering delusion to the list: the misplaced belief that text messaging was invented in the early Renaissance.

(2) As a representative sampling of the messages in the thread, Samten suggests that the 24 spokes on f67r1 represent the “planetary hours”, “D J Matulewicz suggests that the same picture might represent a “sailor’s compass through the night sky”, while geon wonders whether f34r shows when to cultivate opium poppies, f76r1 when to harvest them , and f75r/f78r how to turn them into morphine, possibly as part of an entire book about manufacturing narcotics.

(3) The first really substantive post on f67r1 in the whole thread (a third of the way down this page) comes from dandelion, who excitedly points to “the Calendar Pages from the “Antiphonal, León Cathedral, 8 Fol. 10v and 19v., 10th-11th century” ” as mentioned in “Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Spain” by Mireille Mentré: and concludes that “it is definately a Calendar” of undetermined age.

(4) Woody NaDobhar suggests (a third of the way down on this page) that the VMs might be a “Book of Shadows”, “a book of times and recipes used by practitioners of hedge magic”, but with many of the “obviously not real” plants being “botanical chimera” in a kind of “Georgia O’Keefe” way.

(5) It should be noted that few of the posters really engage with the VMs (but then again, at least one of them was a 9-year-old boy, who at least showed courage). This annoyed Helen, who rather snarkily wrote: “The poster who suggested that we can’t read [the VMs] because it’s not English and the one who enters nonsensical links followed by emoticons are to be commended for managing to post on the internet in spite of their severe limitations.” Say it like it is, sister: how many times have I pulled back from typing this myself?

(6) About halfway down this page, Hotrod (Mike H) sees f67r1 as an “Archeometre“-style drawing [actually a 19th century “Atlantean” text, with a pseudo-Lullian Renaissance vibe], and infers from the large number of apparently-pregnant women that the whole manuscript is about fertility: while at the very bottom, theAtarian suggests a similarity between it and an Egyptian hypocephalus. The preceding page has a post by MrTim (Tim Ackerson), linking to his page describing the VMs as being a single substitution cipher hiding a mix of Early Welsh, Irish, Latin, Old Cornish and numerous unknown (and probably unknowable) languages. While on this page, Misfit wonders whether it is written in cursive Bulgarian, before going on (in a separate post) to suggest a translation of “qokedy” as “who will give”, “qochek” as “the head or hard part of a cabbage”, while “dal” means “whether or not”.

(7) We’re now onto page 17 of 19, and (at long last) a sensible post. John Keirein had just seen a PBS travel program about Arcos de la Frontera in Spain, with an f67r1-like pattern on the plaza outside the church. “But the mysterious highlight is this 15th-century magic circle: 12 red and 12 white stones — the white ones with various constellations marked. Back then on a child’s baptism day, the parents would stop here first for a good exorcism. The exorcist would stand inside the protective circle and cleanse the baby of any evil spirits. Then they could proceed into the church.” (Copied from this site). Then Misfit posts again, this time about a magic circle his aunt gave him; and then some more translations (he says it is phonetic “Macedonian”, i.e. a Bulgarian dialect): “oteey chedal oteedy” = “why does it burn why did you give“; followed by tales of his aunt apparently poisoning half his family, but that’s OK because it’s her religion.

Then, just as things were starting to warm up in a nicely mad way, the moderator pulled the plug and locked the thread. Finito, fin, the end: all in all, he’d had just about enough of so many odd-shaped peas jammed in APOD. And, despite all the occasional flickers of intelligence, can you really blame him?

Have you ever lifted up a stone in the woods and found something icky you really wished you hadn’t seen?

Or, in our modern ‘armchair explorer’ days, have you ever clicked confidently onto a website where, errrm, oh deary me, oh no, that’s not, you can’t… (you get the basic idea)?

Unfortunately, the point of being a blogger (or indeed any kind of writer) is that you document the odd things you see so that other people can decide whether to seek them out for themselves (rare) or to avoid them like the plague (far more common). Which means that bloggers have a vaguely journalistic obligation to follow any given story right through to its logical endpoint, wherever that may happen to be.

Now, even though once upon a time I worked on an “X-Files” computer game, I freely admit that I don’t actully know much about UFO lore. The closest thing on my bookshelf is Nick Cook’s thought-provoking “The Hunt For Zero Point“, but that’s more about odd terrestrial flying objects than alien ones per se. Which, as will become rapidly clear, made the story of Dan Burisch and his claimed decipherment of the Voynich Manuscript even more ‘out there’ to me than most things I tend to run into.

On the surface, it’s all straightforward enough. Burisch thinks the VMs is by Roger Bacon, who apparently wrote it in a kind of disguised / dyslexic Hebrew lettering. The text direction, as you’d expect from Hebrew, runs right-to-left (though, oddly enough, Burisch needed a mirror to read it). Line 17 of f35v has a Voynichese EVA fragment “daiin.dain.chkaly.choly“, the last three words of which are transcribed halfway down the page here (presumably by Burisch?) as “dain mkaly(e) moly(e)“, deciphered right-to-left as “elom el akim niad” – “everlasting God will establish knowledge“. Of course, add the missing “daiin” back in and it should probably read “everlasting God will establish knowledge knowledge“: but that’s normal for this kind of claimed VMs decipherment.

As an aside, Googling for “elom” returns links to (1) “the personification of the moon among southern Hebrews“, and (2) “Eloms were short, stocky, bipedal sentients, with a thick pelt of oily, dark fur, native to the frigid and mineral-rich desert planet of Elom” on the Elom entry in the Wookieepedia, an online Star Wars wiki. Further down in Google’s search results, the (real) Wikipedia entry also notes that Elom is “a tribal ewe name meaning “god loves me” or “loved by god”“. It is hard not to get the feeling from this that someone is either (a) being somewhat impressionistic with their supposed translation, or (b) having a Star Wars-themed laugh at the expense of UFOlogists. [In the following, I presume (a) to be true, but sadly there’s no obvious reason to discount (b) at all.]

Burisch’s claimed decryption reprises, just as you can find countless times in the museum of failed Voynich solutions, a large number of by-now-oh-so-familiar motifs of pathological enigmatology: selective transcription, Roger Bacon, mirror writing, disguised Hebrew, confusing and repetitive text, selective dyslexia, arbitrary anagramming, religious / liturgical / Gnostic plaintexts, arbitrary / optimistic / free-form translations, etc. So far, nothing hugely unexpected, then.

But dig a little deeper and things quickly gets bizarre, even by the historical standards of Voynichianity. Burisch claims to have been given the key to solving the VMs by “#3-15”, the keyname of an alien (“J-Rod”?) visitor/prisoner held at Area 51 by Majestic, the secret organization for whom Burisch allegedly worked. The remainder of the decryption was placed in “File 21” (held in Europe somewhere?), and described Burisch’s future discoveries (about ‘Looking Glass’? Man-made stargates? The “Ganesh” particle?) that he has not as yet made. The whole Burisch affair revolves around conspiratorial claims of time-travelling aliens meddling with human affairs and how 4 billion people may well die (in 2012?) as a result of the immense explosion of a manmade stargate, or possibly of the natural stargate on “Frenchman’s Mountain” where some Voynich lettering can allegedly be found carved in the stone.

Now, I’m in no way qualified to judge on this kind of end-times stuff (after all, who is?). But purely as far as Burisch’s claims about the Voynich Manuscript go, I have to say that I’m quite sure they’re a load of nonsense. The VMs is a historical artefact that was demonstrably constructed more than a century after Roger Bacon’s death, the word patterns don’t match Hebrew (or any other known language), the left-right direction of writing doesn’t match Hebrew, the strongly-structured letter patterns within words don’t show any signs of dyslexic-style anagram transposition, and I would predict there is an overwhelming (>99.9%) probability that the Hebrew-style pattern that was found on part of one line on f35v could not be found duplicated in more than 0.05% of the Voynichese corpus as a whole – and in any case, such fragments would very likely not make syntactical or semantical sense as a meaningful sentence. Right now I’m not even hugely convinced that the four words “elom el akim niad” can be contorted to mean what they are claimed to mean.

I’m all for novelists’ appropriating the VMs for their books (though it’s actually a far harder trick to carry off than most seem to realise): but when this kind of “kooks and spooks” looking-glass world tries to claim the VMs as one of its own, it’s hard to find a point of mutual accommodation. Sure, the VMs was mysterious enough 30 years ago for Terence McKenna to be intrigued by it: but we’ve come a long way since then, and it’s now merely an historical curio right on the cusp of mainstream thought.

Perhaps if the decrypted contents of “File 21” come out into the open, we’ll all fall back in stunned amazement (before fleeing as far away from any of the stargates as we can). But until that day… sorry, but I’ll have to admit to not being a believer.

UPDATE: More on Dan Burisch & the VMs

For me, Voynich research is one of those things that grind slowly onwards for long periods of time, punctuated by occasional testosteronal fist-clenching-in-the-air moments of elation, a bit like a prisoner being unexpectedly set free. OK, I know it’s a bit cliched: but I do it anyway.

For “The Curse of the Voynich“, I forensically examined the manuscript itself, travelled to all the places, critically read all the secondary sources, and from all that reconstructed the story as best I could. In short, I’d done an OK job: but though readers told me they liked it, it hadn’t set the world on fire. Though it ticked all the right boxes, it was obvious I had to go away and try harder. But what could I do better?

At first, I bought a pile of books on the history of cryptography, such as David Kahn’s “The Codebreakers”: all fascinating, but the question I’m trying to answer – “at the Quattrocento birth of mathematical cryptography, what kind of cryptography died?” – only features marginally (if at all) in the generally rather positivistic accounts presented there.

And then I realised what I had been missing. Sure, I had read plenty on Quattrocento individuals such as Filarete, Alberti, Brunelleschi, Taccola: but there was one gigantic motherlode of information which most historians seem to pay lip service to (rather than have to set aside several months to read): Lynn Thorndike’s epic multi-volume “History of Magic and Experimental Science”.

I therefore bought volumes III and IV (for the 14th and 15th centuries) and have now reached halfway through the latter. What continually amazes me is the amount of ground Thorndike covered that has apparently not been touched by anyone since: though there is a large literature tree cascading off it, it is very deep in places and non-existent in others.

From what I have read, I am now quite sure that virtually all of the Voynich Manuscript’s roots will turn out to be directly traceable from the late 14th and early 15th century: which means that we might in time be able to reconstruct or predict plaintexts for some sections. But these are still very early days in this ultra-long-term research programme. *sigh*

However, the good news is that I also bought a copy of “Science and Thought in the Fifteenth Century” by Lynn Thorndike: and one obscure page from that gave me precisely the clenching-both-fists-in-the-air-YESSSSS-moment I mentioned at the start. The details are too convoluted to go through here, but trust me, it’s a peach.

At an upcoming skeptical conference in Darmstadt from 1-3 May 2008 (with a loosely Creationist / Intelligent Design / paranormal theme), the “scientist [and] author” Klaus Schmeh will be giving a talk on the Voynich Manuscript. There’s a German blog entry here, in which Schmeh sets out his stall: which is that, basically, the VMs is (just as Gordon Rugg & Andreas Schinner have claimed) a 16th century hoax.

This kind of superficial category error sets my teeth on edge every time I encounter it: such people seem to think that a “hoax” explanation must somehow also be the most “skeptical”. Actually, if they would bother to look at the object (rather than at the EVA transcriptions), they would find that the VMs has 15th century quire numbers, and a complex codicological history. Sixteenth century hoax theories requires that all those many layers of evidence be part of the hoax too: of course this is a “possibility”, but multiplying the various unlikelinesses together, you end up with a dwindlingly small final probability.

Instead, a properly skeptical reading would say: “the presence of 15th century hand-writing in the quire numbers is a strong indication that the manuscript was made no later than 1500, while the presence of various art history features in the drawings points to an earliest date of around 1440. Explanations significantly outside this date range would require strong evidence to support them, which has not yet been found or demonstrated. And that’s about as far as we can reasonably go at the moment.”

What I’m getting at is that the hoax hypothesis displays the wrong kind of incredulity to be genuinely skeptical: it portrays the evidence itself as incredible, rather than “typical” Voynichian hypotheses (Cathar, Alien End-Times, Old Ukrainian, Baconian telescopy and microscopy, Leonardo etc) themselves as incredible. The curious Voynich solution mentioned in one of the comments to the German web-page on Schmeh seems to fall into this general category, sadly.

Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about the “Hero’s Journey”, his condensation of mythology into the single ur-story (often referred to as the “monomyth“)beneath it all. In recent decades, Campbell’s work was popularized by Chris Vogler in his book “The Writer’s Journey”, that distilled the original 17 stages to a 12-stage / 3-act writing template. All of which makes the recent Hollywood writer’s strike seem to me potentially anachronistic: in 10 years time, the [Auto-Plot] button will probably have put them all out of a job anyway.

Incidentally, if you’re familiar with the “Patterns” literature (where recurring patterns of behaviour are given names in order that people can recognize them and manage their causes, rather than simply fire-fighting their consequences), you should be very comfortable with the monomyth: it’s basically a pattern template for mythological behaviours.

The first of Campbell’s stages is the “Call To Adventure“: someone (a Herald) or something (a Macguffin, say) challenges the Hero (and, behind the scenes, often the Anti-Hero too) to take temporary leave of his Ordinary World (DullWorld) to enter the Special World of the Macguffin (DangerWorld). Stage Two is where the Hero says: errrm, thanks… but no thanks, I’m actually quite happy here sweeping the floors [A.K.A. “Refusal of the Call“], while Stage Three is where the unseen writing Gods swoosh the Hero up like the miserable piece of snot he is and propel him onwards to his adventure in DangerWorld, whether he likes it or not [A.K.A. “Supernatural Aid“]. Because, let’s face it, only a nutter would place themselves in danger for no reason.

In the case of the Voynich Manuscript, most people are happy to enjoy the frisson of danger that comes with the Refusal of the Call: a cipher manuscript is all too obviously a Macguffin, a siren call to a mad textual adventure that you simply wouldn’t wish on anyone (let alone yourself). Anyone (such as myself) who has spent any significant time in the VMs’ World Of Research Agony will readily verify that this is basically the case.

But I find it fascinating that the founding mythology of the 19th century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was built around claimed cipher manuscripts. These had been owned by masonic scholar Kenneth Mackenzie, then found in a cupboard by Rev. A.F.A. Woodford in 1885, and then deciphered by William Wynn Westcott – the plaintext was in English, but had apparently been encrypted using a 15th century Trithemian-style cipher. Westcott then supposedly wrote to someone called Fraulein Anna Sprengel (whose contact details had helpfully been enciphered, though I can see no sign of them in the 56 released folios), who made him and his two collaborators “Exempt Adepts”: and gave them a charter to work the five initiatory grades described in the cipher manuscripts.

Are the cipher manuscripts in any way genuine? Though the paper used for the 60 folios of the cipher was watermarked 1809, the association it mentions between the Tarot trumps and the Tree of Life was first proposed by Eliphas Levi only in 1855. And, for me, the simple act of using 45-year-old paper (never mind the constantly changing story surrounding the object, and the continued inability to find Anna Sprengel) makes me suspect that deception (or, at the very least, some kind of misleading myth-making) was intended right from the start.

Doubtless many of the hundreds of initiates who felt compelled by the unseen Gods to accept this Call to Adventure heartily enjoyed their foray into the Golden Dawn’s DangerWorld. But regardless, the Cipher Manuscript at the heart of the constructed myth seems to have been nothing more than a Macguffin: Refusal of the Call is often exactly the right place to stop.